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The Case for JaVale McGee

Up, up and away! (Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images)

You can add Washington Post columnist Michael Wilbon to the steadily growing list of JaVale McGee admirers. Wilbon joins a group that already includes teammate Caron Butler and all-stars/Olympians Chris Paul and Dwight Howard. After his 12-point, 10-rebound game against the New York Knicks last Friday, one blogger stated that McGee already is the steal of the draft.

Near the end of his column about the woeful Wizards on Wednesday, Wilbon made an impassioned argument that Coach Eddie Jordan needs to start the long-armed, leap-frogging rookie:

If you're searching for some good news, there is some -- though the returns won't show up in the short term. JaVale McGee, the 7-foot rookie first-round draft pick, has the early makings of a being a beast. He's the most athletic man of that size the franchise has had in a great many years. He's got passion, energy, is completely fearless. Ideally, you don't want to throw this kid in now to sink or swim. But McGee is so much more advanced than (sorry to do this) Kwame Brown. Players on two different teams have already said to me they're stunned at how imposing McGee is. Chris Paul said McGee's athletic in the way Dwight Howard is, which puts him on a real short list. The kid's got a jump shot--who knew?--from 15 feet and in. He can jump over the moon. Okay, he has no idea how to play professional basketball yet, and he'll be totally lost on defense, but so are quite a few other Wizards so he'll fit right in. And at least while he's lost he's trying to block every shot he can reach.
So, put him on the floor. Let him learn now, on the job. What's the downside? That he'll crumble like (sorry again) Kwame. Seriously doubtful. McGee's got the attitude of a kid who knows that at least physically he cannot be overmatched. Anyway, what's the alternative? Haywood is out. McGee already is twice as productive as Etan Thomas. Put him out there. Start him. If you're playing to get to the point when Arenas comes back, then give him a big man worth throwing the ball to when he is healthy enough to play. McGee and scorer Nick Young are two big-time talents that bear watching now that there's plenty of playing time for them.

ESPN's David Thorpe hasn't hopped on the bandwagon yet. He has him rated as the 18th-best rookie through the first two weeks. He offers this analysis:

He is a very athletic big who looks good jumping and dunking lob passes, but he is far too willing to shoot perimeter shots. If he learns to pass and screen or dribble handoff when he's out on the floor instead of shooting it, he'll end up helping his team more. He has the tools to be an excellent rebounder on both ends.

McGee had just one block in his four-minute debut against New Jersey, but he is averaging 10 points, 7 rebounds and one blocked shot in the past three games. Although he played sparingly against Howard, the McDonald's pitchman was thoroughly impressed -- even after he smashed the Wizards to the tune of 31 points, 16 rebounds and three blocks. Howard told reporters in Orlando after the game, "He's nice! He's doing alright. It takes a while in this league for big men. But I think he's gonna be nice!"

McGee's athleticism has been well-documented - he has a 7-foot-6 wingspan, a standing reach of 9-6 and a 32.5-inch vertical - but he is also forcing photographers to change the way they shoot him. No kidding.

The Washington Wizards Blog is reporting that team photographer Ned Dishman is installing a "JaVale cam" at Verizon Center, beginning with Wednesday's game against Utah, because he jumps too high for the current basket cams to catch what he's doing on his dunks. Mr. Irrelevant claims that McGee can dunk on a 12-foot high rim.

Here's another little known note about McGee. He often scribbles the words, "Kill+Mode=Chee$e" in marker on his size-19 sneakers. When asked what it meant, McGee said he always has to be in "kill mode" on the floor (Mike Jones of the Washington Times explained it a little more in this story). That's a little scary, but does that sound like someone who is overwhlemed by this situation?

Anyone who has seen McGee catch a ridiculous alley-oop or nail a turnaround jumper knows that the kid can play, but how long before Jordan takes Wilbon's advice? Let me know what you think.

By Michael Lee  |  November 12, 2008; 11:14 AM ET
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Next: What Now?


0-6 would do it i think

Posted by: BurgwithaU | November 12, 2008 11:24 AM | Report abuse

Hopefully tonight. It's not like they have anything to lose, is it?

Posted by: keithward64 | November 12, 2008 11:37 AM | Report abuse

its about time, we have been singing his praises for a while over at the Wizard board:

He will be even better once we get Brendan back for the double threat on the inside

Posted by: WizardsExtreme | November 12, 2008 11:45 AM | Report abuse

Tonight? I hate coaches that say "I don't play rookies". Coaches like Joe Gibbs and Larry Brown.

Sure rookies make mistakes but so what? They'll learn and get better. Etan Thomas isn't going to get taller. And he hasn't improved his jump shooting since he's been here. So why not give minutes to the young guy?

Posted by: tundey | November 12, 2008 12:03 PM | Report abuse

Hell yea. He needs to be getting at a minimum 30 minutes a game. There is no reason he shouldnt be. And +1 on, place is nice.

Posted by: LooseCannon1 | November 12, 2008 12:30 PM | Report abuse

I keep hearing that Arenas will be back in about a month. However as time passes and his recovery progresses, shouldn't there be a decrease in this projection? Also, I keep hearing about the promise of McGuire, but he hardly ever plays and when he does he seems to post a bunch of zeros.

Posted by: browneri | November 12, 2008 12:34 PM | Report abuse

Hopefully tonight. It's not like they have anything to lose, is it?

Posted by: keithward64 | November 12, 2008 11:37 AM


Posted by: bryc3 | November 12, 2008 12:43 PM | Report abuse

What do I think? Start him tonight. Young too.

Posted by: Wittan | November 12, 2008 12:48 PM | Report abuse

I said this after Haywood was injured put him(McGee) out there what da hell,how long has AB been on the team? he can't do any worse, at least he seems to listen let him play EJ, have Etan come off the bench at 0-5 what do we have to lose? One more thing let Nick start and when Gil comes back start em both GA,NY.AJ,JMC,CB,2nd team ET,AB,JD,AD/DS,DSONG obviously rotate second teamers as matchups dictate.

Posted by: dargregmag | November 12, 2008 12:52 PM | Report abuse

I like what I've seen so far from McGee. He's raw, but he has a chance to develop into a good center. He should be starting, no question about that.

Here's the real problem with this team. You can't keep starting the season with one of your key players hurt. Also the defense has been pretty bad during the last few years, but at least we had the offense to cancel that out. Problem is with all the injuries, our offense hasn't been good this season.

Lebron has 3 straight games of 41 points. Cavs are healthy and growing. Wizards are injured and deflating. It's pretty frustrating to watch as a season ticket holder. The Wizards haven't grown on defense, have lost 3 straight seasons in the playoffs to the Cavs and Gil is still hurt. Eddie Jordan isn't to blame, but we all know the media and fans will blame him.

Hope we get a win tonight. Mike and Ivan keep up the good work. Looks like it may be a long season.

Posted by: wizfan81 | November 12, 2008 12:58 PM | Report abuse


Starting Lineup

McGee - 5
AJ - 4
CB - 3
NY - 2
Juan - 1

Second Unit

AB/OPec (Flip a coin) - 5
Song. - 4
DMac - 3
Stevenson - 2
Brown - 1

Eddie put your best 5 out there to start and play them 30 to 35 minutes. You have to get out of the gate faster..........

Posted by: BulletsFever | November 11, 2008 3:08 PM

This is what I have been screaming about the last three days. Start this FIVE......

Posted by: BulletsFever | November 12, 2008 1:00 PM | Report abuse

I don't know why the Wizards resigned Arenas. Injury prone and already missed almost 2 seasons. For that kind of money they could have signed 2 other very good players. Why don't they buy him out and move on. No one else would want him. Grunfeld goofed on this one. He is not a superstar.

Posted by: abtmrt | November 12, 2008 1:04 PM | Report abuse

Eddie Jordan isn't to blame, but we all know the media and fans will blame him.

Hope we get a win tonight. Mike and Ivan keep up the good work. Looks like it may be a long season.

Posted by: wizfan81 | November 12, 2008 12:58 PM

Hate to disagree with you Wizfan81, but yes Eddie is the blame in 2 of the 5 losses without question. Eddie's rotational calls, or lack thereof, lost the Nets and Bucks games period.

Those two games would have been won if Eddie didn't stick with Songalia (playing the 5 and not 4), Stevenson and Daniels as long as he did.

McGee, Juan, and NY were playing great; but Eddie chose to yank them out of the games. The Pistons and Magic game the Wiz were just OUT GUNNEDn not Eddies fault. As for the NY game Eddie rotational calls were a lot better but the Knicks were too hot and the Wiz played UGLY DEFENSE on the primeter........

The record should be 2 wins and 3 losses. Not 0 wins and 5 losses. Eddie is the blame on 2 of those losses......

Still a Eddie fan though. He just has to get rid of that "old school" way of thinking and put the best 5 out there period.........

Posted by: BulletsFever | November 12, 2008 1:14 PM | Report abuse

Buy Arenas out of a 6 year contract 3 months after the contract begins? How about you wait and see how he does when he comes back. I doubt you'll be saying those things if he's back to putting up ~30 & 6 per game.

Posted by: psps23 | November 12, 2008 1:16 PM | Report abuse

Yes, EJ suffers from a Gibbsian 2.0 reliance on veterans. Like Gibbs with his conservative, god-fearing play calling, EJ is also too reluctant to tinker with the Holy Princeton Offense. To be honest, though, the real fault is Grunfeld. We are pitiful at PG. Sure, Arenas is injured, but Ernie knew this risk when he signed him long term. Sure, Daniels is injured, but he has been aging for a long time and it should have been expected. Grunfeld never gave the Wiz a young prospect to groom at the position. One of the reasons is the bad long-term deals he gave Etan (too slow and clumsy to be a PF, too small to be a C) and Deshawn (don't even get me started on him). He has also populated the PF position with the undersized Jamison, the glacial-footed Songalia and perennial skinny project, Blatche. Great teams have a stud at PF.... fast, athletic, muscular. As a result, we have many shooters, but no distribution at PG and no muscle in the frontcourt except for what the hustling, overachieving Butler gives us. Those are two massive, crucial team holes that we have Grunfeld to blame for.

Posted by: SammyT1 | November 12, 2008 1:40 PM | Report abuse

Here's what Eddie needs to do with DS - start him and tell him that his primary responsibility is to stop the other team's point guard from penetrating. He has the size and strength to do this. Any offense we get out of him would be a bonus. We don't need hime to score 20 ppg, we just need better defense.

Posted by: paulstutz14 | November 12, 2008 1:49 PM | Report abuse

The future is NOW. Best 5 on the floor to start, get the win tonight and go on from there.

Posted by: khrabb | November 12, 2008 1:58 PM | Report abuse

Keep starting Etan but (A) keep him on a short leash and (B) steadily and significantly increase McGee's floor time. There's some benefit to Etan starting in that, against teams with big physical Cs, having him bang them around for a few minutes could help tenderize them a bit. But McGee should be the first big off the bench, and pretty much the only one at the C position.

Posted by: kalo_rama | November 12, 2008 1:58 PM | Report abuse

Get the kid in the game now! You already know what you have w/ the other stiffs and they're not the answer....

Posted by: randysbailin | November 12, 2008 2:00 PM | Report abuse

How can a young player get worse from one year to the next? Wilborn says it can’t be the coaching.

But looking at Andray Blatche, his FG %, turnovers and blocked shots have deteriorated this year.

Could it be an injury? Not practicing? Out of shape? Or a loss of confidence?
On an anecdotal basis, every time AB makes a mistake, he immediately looks to the bench. Basketball requires one to think positively. AB is thinking too much – and he’s thinking about making mistakes even before he makes them.

For those AB haters, let’s take a look at some states for Blatche and Rasheed Wallace when they were 22.

AB 6’11, 250; RW 6’11, 230
Total Minutes AB 2500; RW 2300
Points per 30 minutes AB 10.8; RW 11.0
Rebounds per 30 minutes AB 7.8; RW 5.1
Blocks per 30 minutes AB 1.8; RW 0.9
Turns per 30 minutes: AB 2.0; RW 1.6

RW had good coaching down in NC before going pro. On the other hand, the Wiz are notoriously bad at coaching young big men, and AB is no exception. Eddie has gotten into AB’s head, but with the wrong result.

With Blatche, McGee and Young, the Wiz have some youngsters will a lot of potential. Add Arenas and Butler to that group, and that combo could be a championship team in 2 to 3 years.

But that won’t happen in the current environment, unless the Wiz get a coach who can develop young players, including their confidence. It’s a lose – lose proposition as is whether or not the writers will say it explicitly.

Posted by: Izman | November 12, 2008 2:03 PM | Report abuse

If Blatche is so worried about getting pulled if he makes mistakes, perhaps he take some responsibility and make a more mature and concerted effort to avoid making those mistakes, particularly when they're the the same mistakes he makes over and over again (like dribbling into traffic and turning the ball over, or leaving his feet to pass and turning the ball over).

The argument we keep hearing from the "let the kids play" crowd is that letting them play through their mistakes is the only way to learn from then. Well fine, but the key phrase there is "learn from them." Blatch has been making the same mistakes for 3+ years now and appears to have learned nothing. At some point one has to concede that, for whatever reason, he's not going to learn.

Posted by: kalo_rama | November 12, 2008 2:10 PM | Report abuse

EDIT: That should be"

"perhaps he should take some responsibility..."

Posted by: kalo_rama | November 12, 2008 2:12 PM | Report abuse

Lets stop giving AB the benefit of the doubt he ain't(pardon my english) listening and if he is its not sinking in he's had numerous chances to prove himself but to no avail,for the umpteenth time EJ's not at fault you don't think the coaching staff hasn't tried? come on you know they have, AB would have benefitted from some college experience Blache is the role model for manadatory two years at the college level for every LeBron their's a Andray.

Posted by: dargregmag | November 12, 2008 2:29 PM | Report abuse

This is what I dont get. Our defense is terrible as it is. At least when we had Haywood in there, he could erase some of those mistakes. McGee is our only shotblocker. WHy not let him out there and erase mistakes as well. Thomas and Songalia arent...

Posted by: vwilli1 | November 12, 2008 2:36 PM | Report abuse

What's the difference who starts at center? The team has no backcourt, and the GM let the most effective guard from last year, Mason, go in the offseason.

But everything will change when Gilber (no "t", get it?) gets back. Yeah, right.

Posted by: shovetheplanet | November 12, 2008 2:39 PM | Report abuse

"I don't know why the Wizards resigned Arenas. Injury prone and already missed almost 2 seasons. For that kind of money they could have signed 2 other very good players."

For about the millionth time, no they couldn't. The only way they would have had enough FA money to sign anyone to a deal more than the MLE would have been to renounce both Arenas and Jamison. And even then (A) they probably wouldn't have had enough money to sign a true top-tier FA to a max deal (assuming that that were any such players available; aside from Brand, there weren't) and (B) real top flight FAs would hardly be flocking to join the Wizards after they'd just let two of their best players walk.

Posted by: kalo_rama | November 12, 2008 2:52 PM | Report abuse

Whoever said we need to get out of the gate faster is absolutely correct. Has there been a game this season when we haven't trailed by 10 or more in the first quarter? Seriously, that is unacceptable.

Dixon at the 1 spot, Young at the two, Butler at 3, Jamison the 4, and McGee at the 5.

Blatche and Stevenson are first off the bench.

Posted by: Wittan | November 12, 2008 2:54 PM | Report abuse

Tonight would be a great night to get a win! NOT. This team can't play any defense, good luck tonight against Deron Williams...0-6

Posted by: rachel216 | November 12, 2008 3:04 PM | Report abuse

AB is not a center. He would be better if he plays forward and have Mcgee play center.

Posted by: bdunkadunk | November 12, 2008 4:05 PM | Report abuse

I missed tonight's game unfortunately and didn't get to see the win, but from what I've seen so far in the other games, I agree with what most of you are saying. The starters should be Butler, Jamison, McGee, Young, and Dixon. I don't understand why Thomas keeps starting, he's been useless in my opinion. McGee may be a rookie but he's been playing awesome. Young has a ton of energy and gets the other players hyped up. Make the change Eddie!

Posted by: wizzah | November 13, 2008 12:18 AM | Report abuse

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